Today our budding scientists discovered properties of a substance discovered recently on a new moon in our solar system. Their job was to investigate how this substance, called Oobleck for it’s similarity to the green, oozy substance in Dr. Seuss’ Bartholomew and the Oobleck, performs using their senses of hearing, seeing, touching, and smelling. We decided that tasting was a sense we would leave out of the equation for now!
These scientists really got into their job as they were up to their elbows in green goo! Even my hands were covered as we discussed our observations! Hence, the idea of taking photos was, unfortunately, put on the back burner.
Once their observations were recorded they used different tools to conduct tests on the Oobleck to see how it performed. The scientists discovered under certain circumstances the Oobleck performed as a liquid, while other times it acted as a solid. Very mysterious indeed!
Next week we plan on holding a scientific convention where groups will share their observations to create “Laws of Oobleck”, which will involve lots of discussion based on evidence gathered today. The goal will be to encourage refinement of our wording to most accurately describe Oobleck. Tests will be conducted in order to prove our laws.
Please have your child bring in colored pencils for use in our next class as we will be using them for a follow up exercise where their creativity comes out.
See you next week!
“Discovery consists in seeing what everyone else has seen, but thinking what no one else has thought.”
- Albert Szent-Gyorgyi, Nobel Prize winner in medicine
We covered quite a bit in our first class together! We kicked off the afternoon with a brief introduction to classical mythology and why it matters. We discussed what it means to be "western" and the spread of Greek myths and culture to Rome and later to countries like France and England. It's our hope to draw the connection between these earliest of stories to the progression of western literature as we know it today - making it not only interesting, but relevant!
We introduced a few main characters through our Gallery of the Gods handout, and without further ado, dove right into our first reading of The Golden Fleece: Jason and the Argonauts Part I. Parts were readily spoken for and we enjoyed Zachary Hamby's delightful and hilarious re-telling of the first part of Jason's quest for the Golden Fleece. We encouraged students to highlight their lines at home and to review their parts using the reading direction given in the script. We will be going back to the script in another couple of weeks and working on diction and expression.
Our journey into the history of science (and Joy Hakim's text) began today with an overview of ancient civilizations and their quest to make sense of the world around them.
We discussed how ancient civilizations attempted to answer these questions using a combination of Creation Myths, superstition, and astrology. Students completed a workbook assignment to better understand what distinguishes a Myth from Science.
Both begin with careful observation - and that is a skill that the ancient stargazers had in spades. After all, the world's first "science lab" was their night sky!
However, as we will continue to understand as we move forward in our journey, science relies on logic, proof and the scientific method, in addition to observation.
Students also spent some time in class today getting familiar with the geography of the ancient world by completing a map of the Fertile Crescent. We tied this in with a timeline to help orient students to the time span we will be covering on our history of science journey (5000 BCE - 1500 CE). We will continue to develop these timelines as we move through the text, adding important dates, discoveries, and scientists. Students should review both the map and the timeline at home this week.
Homework: Please read Chapters 3 and 4 in the text in preparation for our next class, and complete the Quest Sheet about ancient calendars on page 6 in the Student Quest Guide (workbook).
**General note: Students are not required to complete every workbook page that accompanies each chapter. I will assign some workbook quest sheets as homework and others we will do together in class. Unfortunately, we will not have time to finish every workbook activity as part of this course. Feel free to do those that interest you on your own!
Bridges and Buildings
Charles Besjak, Director of Structural Engineering at Skidmore, Owings & Merrill NYC (www.som.com) was our guest consultant and engineering expert. Mr. Besjak provided students with an overview of some basic engineering principles including the importance of how materials in bending work together in compression and tension to resist force. A significant principle in bridge design, whether paper, concrete, or steel, is to make sure that all components act in a monolithic way (in unison) to resist the applied loads (whether pennies or cars!).
Students tested their paper bridge designs by loading them with pennies and counting how many could be supported before collapse. The students came up with an interesting range of designs - including net-like structures, tunnels and tubes, and accordion folds - several of which held as many as 200 pennies! Mr. Besjak discussed the pros and cons of each design, and illustrated several approaches for folding the paper (for strength) while making sure to connect the elements into a monolithic (single) structure.
And so concludes our semester of Creative Thinking! It has been a pleasure sharing this time with all of you and I look forward to continuing our journey of learning together.
The Mosaic Castle
The last class of the semester was indeed a cozy affair! While we had only three of our students in attendance this week, we thoroughly enjoyed assembling the final version of our beautiful Whipping Boy Castle. Kudos to all of our students for their work in summarizing the characters, setting, plot and conflict in the novel. And a special thanks to those of you that helped with the assembly of the pieces this week!
We briefly discussed our final reading selection - Emil's Pranks - and then spent some time decorating our Literature Journals. These are blank books which I encouraged the students to use in several ways: to keep a running list of the books they read; to jot down notes about characters and story lines which they find interesting and fun; or even to write their own stories! It is such a wonderful feeling of accomplishment to look back over the many books you have enjoyed, and by writing down authors, book titles, favorite characters and story summaries, you will also find that you have numerous literary recommendations to pass on to siblings and friends, in addition to a memory book for yourself.
We wrapped up our final Literature class with a classic read aloud - The Magic Thread from William Bennett's The Book of Virtues. In this french tale we are reminded of the irony of impatience - that only by learning to wait, and by the willingness to accept the bad with the good in life, do we usually attain those things that are most worthwhile.
It has truly been a pleasure spending the past 16 weeks with all of you. I hope your enjoyment of stories and books is a lifelong journey!
Starting with the Spring 2013 semester, which begins on Monday, February 11, we are requesting that student lunches be nut free.
We now have a few students with nut allergies, and since we must share the same lunch table, think it's a good idea to err on the side of caution.
If your student carries an EpiPen, please make sure his or her facilitators(s) knows where it is kept so they can assist your student in the event of an allergic reaction.
As a reminder, the lunch period is from 11:45am - 12:15pm. Lunches should also be as mess-free as possible, since we are short on clean-up time. See everyone on Monday!
"Math Magic and Probability and Game Theory, oh my!"
Our class of January 21 had us guessing and strategizing! I performed three different "magic tricks" involving consecutive numbers and patterns and challenged the children to discover the method behind the madness. The first two involved averaging and algebra (!), although we did not get bogged down in formulas, the students were able to recognize and understand that we were applying a formula to solve the trick. The last was truly a "trick" that required them to spot patterns -- they were able to see the solution within about three or four minutes of studying the problem. I think after 14 classes they have just about figured me out! If your kids would like to see some math magic performed by a real "mathemagician" you can visit young Ethan Brown's website, it's truly incredible stuff!
We then played three different games of chance which introduced the students to the concept of probability, and while discussion of probability calculations would have been out of place here, we enjoyed trying to predict what might happen given certain scenarios. Mostly we were wrong, and that's ok!
We wrapped up the day with a little discussion of game theory. We heard a scenario and then played a game, in pairs, that illustrated the story. It was great watching the kids figure out what the strategy should be after a couple of rounds! In our final game, tootsie rolls were on the line, and thankfully won and not lost.
Lastly, here's a fun game for you -- have you ever played "Tower of Hanoi?" A good game of strategy and elimination. Enjoy Hanoi!
The Study of TopologyClick photo to learn more about Mobius Strips
Our last class! Hard to believe that our time together is at an end for now, but here we are. Before today's class began, I asked the students to tell me something they had learned this semester that they didn't know before. Not surprisingly, they gave very concrete answers such as Pascal's Triangle and paradoxes. I told them what I hoped they would take with them was a sense of exploration -- of not being afraid to spend time thinking through all possible answers, and that sometimes we can be presented with problems that have multiple solutions. The problem is not considered solved until all solutions are found!
We spent much of today discussing surfaces, vertices, sides and edges, and playing with Mobius Strips. Many children are familiar with these strips that seemingly have just one side, but today we attempted to predict what would happen if we cut the strips into certain configurations. For example, if we cut a Mobius strip down the middle, what happens? (You have one loop with four half twists, the new loop is twice as long and half as wide!) Next, what happens if you make another loop and cut it 1/3 from the edge? We had some technical difficulties with this one, which I later realized resulted from the ends not being securely fastened (big problems, simple answers!). If your student would like to try more at home, here are the problems and expected results:
All strips should be 11" long and 1" wide:
Make a Mobius Strip (a strip of paper with a half twist securely fastened at the ends with tape) and cut parallel to the edges about 1/3 of the way from one edge. What will happen? (You get two intertwined loops, one is the same length as the original but only 2/3 as wide, the second has four half-twists and is twice as long and only 1/3 as wide as the original).
Make a loop with two half-twists and cut parallel to the edge in the middle -- what happens? (You get two intertwined loops half as wide and same length as original, both with two half-twists. Now, for the really brave, cut each of those loops in half again -- what happens now?)
Here we are with our collection of Mobius Strips!
Our last challenge for the day was to make five separate objects with a different number of surfaces or "faces;" including 6 faces, 4 faces, 3 faces, 2 faces, and 1 face.
One or two of them stumped us, but we came up with some good solutions that I share with you here.
I look forward to continuing to watch your children learn and grow each Monday! Thank you for a great semester!
What we learned and other things...
As I look back at my notes for the first day of class on September 17, 2012, I'd like to share what our original goals were for the semester:
We learned the difference between a feature article and an editorial, and practiced writing both. Many times we succeeded. Sometimes we missed the mark and tried again.
We learned about the inverted pyramid style of news writing and identified its use in a major newspaper. We designed a flag and named our paper, "The Mosaic Monthly." We defined news and discussed what purposes publications serve. We welcomed two special guests to our classroom and interviewed them asking only open-ended questions.
We started learning J-Jargon (the vocabulary of the business) and how to write a news story using the 5 W's & H. We learned the differences between copy-editing and proof-reading and why both are necessary. We sold ads for our paper. We defined attribution and how to use it correctly in a news story.
We talked about missing voices in a news story and how to find our voice when writing a feature article. We discussed bias and perspective and the differences between them. We planned, we poured over layouts, we set and met deadlines.
And we published three issues of our paper, not two. But most importantly, WE HAD FUN. At least I did, anyway. I hope they did, too.
I'll always remember this time spent exploring something new and unfamiliar. I'm sure I learned more from them than they did from me, or maybe we just learned a lot together along the way. No matter, we are all better and wiser and braver for the experience.
As I told the students in the final issue, "Don't be afraid to take chances with your writing, be bold." I hope they continue to write for the pleasure of writing, to take chances, and to be unafraid of criticism. There will be many more opportunities for growth on the road ahead. I look forward to our next steps together.
See you next week!